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Temple 12, Shōsan-ji

The Temple of the Burnt Mountain

Temple 12, Shōsan-ji

Shōsan-ji is temple No. 12 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. Located at 800 m up a mountain, it’s the second highest temple on the pilgrimage, and it’s known as a nansho, or ‘difficult place’, with a lot of up and down along the way. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Awaji Island. However, the temple is frequently wreathed in cloud, making it very atmospheric.

What to see

Along the 500 m approach from the large car park to the main gate, there are large stone statues of Hotei, Kishimojin, and the thirteen Buddhas. The path is lined with more than one hundred cedar trees that are over five-hundred years old. A flight of rough slate steps with mismatched banisters leads up to the large Niō Gate. Beyond the gate on the left is the temple office, a teahouse, and more massive trees. Up some further steps is a water basin on your left, the belfry on your right, and the Main Hall in front of you. On the right side of the Main Hall is the Daishi Hall, which was completed in 2008. To the left of the Main Hall is the Three-Headed Daikoku Hall, and the Jūnisha Shrine is on the right. The statues in the halls are substitutes for images that are kept from public view.

Walking further up from the temple takes you to a cliff behind which the snake of legend is trapped, and at the top of the mountain is a small shrine. A few kilometers down from the temple is a shrine where the tomb of Emon Saburō, a key figure in pilgrimage lore, is located. There’s a fine statue of Saburō receiving a stone from Kūkai before he dies.


Between 701 and 704, En no Gyōja visited the mountain, and established a series of hermitages for the worship of Zaō Gongen. Kūkai visited and carved statues of the deities of the mountain. Shōgun Ashikaga Takauji used the main temple as a place of prayer, and in the Edo period, it was patronised by the Hachisuka family, the lords of the Tokushima domain.


Legend has it that a big, horrible snake lived on the mountain. It breathed fire and attacked the local people. Kūkai prayed to Kokūzō Bosatsu and the three-headed Daikoku, and was able to extinguish the fire started by the snake and trap it in a cave. The name of the temple alludes to a mountain burning.


Name in Japanese: 焼山寺

Pronunciation: shōsanji

Address: 318 Shimobun Kamiyamacho, Myozai, Tokushima Prefecture 771-3421

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